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Homecoming dress too short? Utah girls denied entrance to dance

October 03, 2012|By John M. Glionna

The young girls in Tooele, Utah, are rolling their eyes as if to say “what-EVER” after they were turned away from their homecoming dance because chaperones thought their dresses were too short.

And while the fuddy-duddy adults have struck again -- the kids eventually ended up on the winning side.

Stansbury High principal Kendall Topham has apologized to dozens of teenage girls, including the homecoming queen, for ruining their special night.   

The school's handbook states that dresses for formal events should be "at or near knee length," leaving room for interpretation.

No tape measures were apparently involved -- instead adults at the door eyeballed the hemlines and made their quick decisions. A local newspaper reported that as many as half of the girls were turned away.

Students, along with their parents, took the issue to Facebook to protest what many called a “homecoming spirit massacre.” They posted examples of sparkly dresses an inch or two above the knee that school officials said broke the rules.

“Did you see the photographs?” 19-year-old Cheyenne Sisher, a waitress at the popular Café Dimistris in town, asked in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “They were, like, an inch above the knee.... Please.”

"They told me that it was showing my knees so it was too short, and in order to get into the dance I had to put on leggings," homecoming queen Erica Alvey told the Deseret News. "So I did, and I got back in the dance, but that was before I realized that this thing was going to turn into such a big issue."

On Monday, several students wore their homecoming dresses to class in protest of the dress code. They also signed a petition to change the rule, with input from the student body.

So the oldsters reconsidered.

Topham held four assemblies this week, acknowledging to students the school's dress code policy was too vague. Then he held out a carrot: The school would throw a free dance to make up for Saturday's dress debacle.

"As much as we want to have a certain level of appropriateness and reasonableness, there was never any intention for people to leave heartbroken and disgruntled and confused and frustrated," Topham told students Monday, the Deseret News reported. "So that apology needed to happen and it did happen."

In the soda shops and fast-food restaurants, the school's mea culpa remains the talk of the town in this burg of 32,000 residents located a half-hour's drive southwest of Salt Lake City.

The school and the local district office, however, declined to comment.

Sisher and others think the damage has been done.

“I talked to my mom and she’s 46 and even she said the thing was ridiculous,” she told The Times. “It’s things like this that give rural Utah a bad name.”

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john.glionna@latimes.com

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